About a month ago, I wrote about an interesting study on slime molds.
Even though they have no brain or other kind of “central processing unit,” they can figure out what the most nutritious food is for them, and they can adjust their shape and eating habits to make sure they get as much nutrition as possible.
These results surprised many scientists, because slime molds are supposed to be primitive creatures.
Indeed, according to the University of Arizona:
Slime molds are primitive fungi that exist chiefly as amoeba-like masses…
Purdue University says
Several species of primitive fungi that can grow and multiply on plant surfaces cause slime molds.
The University of Illinois says:
Slime molds are primitive organisms that lack cell walls and flow or move like amoebae over low lying objects and vegetation…
Why do all these organizations call slime molds primitive? Because that’s what the hypothesis of evolution says. As Dr. James Cavender, a professor of environmental and plant biology at Ohio University, says:
They are extremely old organisms that evolved before plants and animals…
Of course, like most data, actual studies of slime molds show that the evolutionary view of them is far from accurate. The latest study demonstrating that slime molds are anything but primitive was reported in the February 13th issue of Science News. In this study, scientists allowed a slime mold to grow over a set of oat flakes that had been laid out in a pattern that was similar to how major population centers are scattered throughout Tokyo.
Now…when a slime mold is exposed to several food sources that are scattered about, it grows over the food sources and then forms tunnels that distribute the food throughout the entire organism. This, of course, is what the slime mold in the experiment did. After about a day, it had formed a network of interconnecting tunnels that looked very similar to the network of the Tokyo rail system!
Now the Tokyo rail system was not built haphazardly. Engineers struggled to design the most efficient system for ferrying people from one population center to another. They worked long and hard and used several mathematical models to determine how to build the tunnels of the rail system so as to accomplish this goal. The slime mold did the same thing, in a lot less time!
The scientists were so impressed with the fact that the slime mold was able to design such an efficient transport system so quickly that they built a computer program mimicking what the slime mold did in order to produce its incredibly efficient network. As the Science News article says:
A new model based on the simple rules of the slime mold’s behavior may lead to the design of more efficient, adaptable networks…
So this supposedly primitive organism may very well “school” human engineers on how to design networks efficiently. Oh…and if there is any doubt about what this study says about the supposedly primitive nature of slime molds, the title of the Science News article says it all:
Slime Mold as Master Engineer